Wayne County’s commissioners asked the county’s elected officials and department heads for their ideas about possible uses of more than $5.23 million in available American Rescue Plan Act and opioid settlement dollars.

Those two areas of funding were addressed during an Oct. 25 meeting designed to discuss and receive feedback on multiple topics.

The county has a little more than $4.8 million in ARPA money it has not yet committed to projects. More than $5.8 million of the county’s $12.79 million allotment is committed to Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program projects, and another $2 million is appropriated for other expenditures, such as scanning clerk’s records and storing them digitally.

Wayne County also is expected to receive $426,507.70 this year as its share from Indiana’s participation in opioid settlements reached with drug producers and distributors, according to the latest estimates from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. The county already allocated this year $411,000 received during 2022.

Commissioner Jeff Plasterer told meeting participants that ARPA and opioid settlements provide funds that likely will never be available again, so now’s the time to suggest needs for consideration.

Commissioners presented a working list of about $6 million in 13 possible projects for ARPA money. They include necessary and planned projects such as replacing the highway department’s aging underground diesel and gasoline tanks, installing new roofs on the First Bank Kuhlman Center and horse barn at the Wayne County Fairgrounds, and contributing to the expansion of water capabilities at the Gateway Industrial Park.

Other listed ideas are staffing for county courts, landscaping of the county government complex, cabling for data and voice, providing grant writer services, addressing security issues, assisting with homeownership, assisting with renovations of existing homes, purchasing an armored vehicle outfitted with ambulance equipment, addressing animal welfare and establishing a sports complex.

The group also suggested purchasing voting equipment, updating the county phone system, and repairing or replacing elevators in the courthouse and annex.

For the opioid settlement money, commissioners wanted to ensure that internal departments know they can apply for funding. The initial 2022 payment was distributed to seven outside organizations with a focus on transitional housing. Departments were encouraged to think about and suggest programs that would benefit from the opioid funds.

Other topics

Craig Eason, the county’s IT director, encouraged the department heads and elected officials to have staff members complete KnowB4 training about digital security. About 59% of county employees had completed a training module.

“This training is very, very important,” Eason said.

He said IT deals with problems from phishing and malware on a daily basis. Employees should use common sense and apply their training to prevent problems from occurring.

Commissioners also presented a draft of an employee parking plan. The plan involves assigning employees to park in specific lots and providing hang tags color-coded for each lot.

The goal is to provide more public parking in the annex’s south parking lot and along Fourth Street between the annex and courthouse. The plan would reserve the middle row of spaces closest to the annex for visitors.

After completing the staff meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to reappoint Sherrilyn Johnson and Peggy Cenova to the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County’s board of directors.

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A version of this article appeared in the November 1 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.